EVER since the 1950s, an estimated 1,000 people travel to Lourdes each year as part of the Cloyne Diocesan Pilgrimage.
From Macroom, Kilnamartyra, Clondrohid and Ballyvourney in the heart of West Cork, to Charleville on the Limerick border, Conna near Waterford, and Mitchelstown, they have all joined together under the diocesan banner.
With a population of 150,000, it is a huge diocese, but many more people from Bandon, Bantry and Cape Clear have also frequently travelled with Cloyne. This year’s pilgrimage to Lourdes was supposed to take place between May 29th and June 3rd, but the pandemic put a stop to that.
Even if travel restrictions hadn’t been so tough, it would have been risky considering that a lot of people who make the journey come from hospital and nursing home settings.
In May, it was agreed that the virtual pilgrimage would be organised and a five-day event featured ceremonies and masses in seven different churches.
People wrote in, outlining their thoughts, memories, poems and words of inspiration under the catch-all of ‘what Lourdes means to me.’ There was even a virtual choir and the 24 members recorded the hymn As I Kneel Before You which was shared online.
More than 14,000 people viewed the virtual pilgrimage. In fact, it is still attracting visitors to the Cloyne Lourdes Facebook page.
Inspired by the success of the pilgrimage and conscious of the fact that some people might not have access to social media, a group of six people worked together to recreate the experience in book form.
For five months, Tom Conway, Grainne Ni Luasa, John Arnold, Marguerite Hanley, Donie Cahill, and George McGrath, have Skyped, Zoomed and Facetimed incessantly on the project.
The result of their efforts is Cloyne-Lourdes, the Virtual Pilgrimage 2020, a 100-page book of a time when people got together by staying apart.
A unique feature of the book is the inclusion of a QR code, which gives the reader access to all the photographic and video files relating to the pilgrimage.
The book is priced at €10 and will be available at parish church car parks throughout Cloyne, including Macroom Parish Church.